In a sign that immigration reform still faces steep odds in the House, Reuters reports that a significant number of House Republicans are still not convinced that an immigration bill would help GOP outreach to Latino voters. Reuters quotes one representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, capturing the mood of many of his colleagues this way: “There is no evidence to support this idea that Republicans will pick up a lot of votes if we give amnesty to 11 million folks.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama sees “amnesty” as a slippery slope. “We can’t afford to give amnesty to every person who wants to illegally cross our borders,” he said. “We don’t have enough money in our piggy bank. Amnesty begets more amnesty.”
In other words, now that the bipartisan Senate gang of eight’s immigration reform compromise has cleared the Judiciary Committee and made its way to the Senate floor, making it more likely that it will pass the Senate, there’s still the very real possibility that reform will die in the House of Representatives. There, the numbers are not in their favor. House Republicans have long voiced their opposition to a comprehensive bill.
That the immigration bill has a long and difficult path to citizenship — thirteen years, with a sizable list of fees and requirements — doesn’t factor into this opposition. The mere fact that some unauthorized immigrants could receive citizenship at some point in the future is enough to inspire opposition. And among House Republicans, this opposition is fairly broad-based; as we saw with the fights over the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, and the sequester, Tea Party Republicans have a tight grip on the direction of the chamber.
If House Republicans can be convinced of the need for a path to citizenship, then there’s hope for the bill. Otherwise, prospects are dire. Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform won’t settle for anything less than a path to citizenship. And as the above quotes suggest, House Republicans are not persuaded that passing reform will necessarily be good for the GOP.
That leaves one remaining option: Speaker John Boehner could pass the bill with support from the Democratic side of the House, as he did with the Violence Against Women Act. But that approach might jeopardize his political standing. Which means that supporters of the bill can’t count on it.
Ultimately, then, immigration reform’s prospects may turn on whether it can be passed through the Senate with broad enough bipartisan support to demonstrate to House GOP colleagues that Republicans must do this for the good of the party. Or, barring that, it will need enough support in the Senate to pressure House Republican leaders to allow it to pass with mostly Democratic support. In other words, reform’s successful passage is still very far away.